The Prosumer as Strategic Asset: A Preliminary Typology for Sport Managers

Toffler (1980) coined the term "prosumer" to describe a fusion of production and consumption roles in society, which he argued were previously divorced in the industrial age by machine technology. The post-industrial rise of the prosumer has been facilitated by new interactive media technologies, greater brand literacy, and capabilities for mass customization (Dignam, 2002), creating a do-it-yourself culture as well as customers demanding more control from industry. Sport managers need to explore how prosumers might contribute to the sport value chain, given the importance of media to the sport industry (e.g. Maguire, 1993; Wenner, 1998) and its increased use of interactive media technologies.

Gladden, Irwin & Sutton (2001) suggest that competitive advantage will be achieved through superior brand equity, created in part by leveraging customer relationships. One way these relationships may be leveraged is via interactive media. Hagel and Armstrong (1997) proposed that virtual communities fostered by interactive media serve four needs: interest, relationship, fantasy and transaction. These needs closely parallel the functions of sport media proposed by Birrell and Loy (1981): arousal, integration, escape and information. Preliminary examination suggests that in the case of sport-themed virtual communities, the facilitated transaction is often one of user-contributed information, which may represent a knowledge asset that could be leveraged internally to generate competitive advantage in rapidly changing environments (Teece, Pisano & Shuen, 1997).

This presentation proposes that firms in the sport industry can achieve competitive advantage by encouraging prosumers to exchange information via interactive media technologies. This information can then be shared elsewhere in the value chain to enhance brand equity. Three examples of prosumerist information exchange will be examined in the context of the sport industry: Nike's "NikeID" mass customization program, which allows users to create personalized athletic footwear; ESPN's "SportsCenter Showcase" poll, which engages fans in the sport media creation process; and the Oakland Athletics' franchise-wide adoption of sabermetrics, a series of statistical analysis tools for baseball, to generate superior on-field performance.

A preliminary typology outlining prosumerism in the sport industry is then offered. Each type is characterized by the primary motivation of the prosumer, the degree of self-actualization for the prosumer, and the strategic importance of the prosumer to the firm. This presentation also outlines challenges that prosumers present to sport managers and suggests that further research in this area is necessary to understand how best to engage this consumer subset in the value creation process.

References

Birrell, S. & Loy, J.W. (1981). Media sport: Hot and cool. In Loy et al. (Eds.), Sport, culture and society. A reader on the sociology of sport. Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger. 296-307.

Dignam, C. (Mar 14, 2002). Prosumer power. Marketing. 24-25.

Gladden, J.M., Irwin, R.L. & Sutton, W.A. (2001). Managing North American major professional sport teams in the new millennium: A focus on building brand equity. Journal of Sport Management, 15(4), 297-317.

Hagel, J. and Armstrong, A. (1997). Net gain. Expanding markets through virtual communities. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Maguire, J. (1993). Globalization, sport development, and the media/sport production complex. Sport Science Review, 2(1), 29-47.

Teece, D.J., Pisano, G., & Shuen, A. (1997). Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal, 18(7), 509-533.

Toffler, A. (1980). The third wave. New York: Morrow.

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